Overheard in the EMS room

Two guys, who work for the same company, but not Local Ambulance:

“You know, I’m thinking of getting out this business.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“No, man, I’m serious.”

“Yeah, right. What are you going to do?”

“I’m thinking of going into acting.”

“What makes you think you could be an actor?”

“I think I’m pretty good at it. I act like I care every day at work.”

Overtime sucks

I never pick up overtime shifts. Except when I do.

Now I’m stuck in this ambulance sitting in the parking lot of some hospital in an unfamiliar county, waiting on some little old lady to finish with her lunch so we can take her back to her nursing home. With a guy that has a strange, slightly unpleasant odor, and a penchant for telling war stories. I just want to take a nap, and this guy is trying to tell me about a bus crash on the side of a mountain during the first Bush administration.

Some war stories are cool. But not this guy’s war stories.

My employer is paying me time-and-a-half for this shift. And that still isn’t enough.

Three

My blog turns three today.

Yay.

It has been pretty fun so far.

Thanks, Dave. I’ve enjoyed the ride.

Here’s to many more years.

Hurry up and wait

“You guys want to do a SWAT standby?”

“Uh, is the Pope Catholic?”

“Okay, head over to PD headquarters. Briefing starts in fifteen.”

Forty-five minutes later, no briefing. That’s fine. Newguy and I are flicking a paper football across a desk. He’s winning.

Finally the briefing starts. Some guy got mad at another guy for talking to the first guy’s girlfriend, so he punched him, then the first guy stabbed the second guy with a screwdriver and killed him. Now there is a murder warrant, and these nice fellows are going to persuade first guy to come spend some time with them in their Iron Bar Motel.

All over a girl.

Three hours after clocking in, we leave PD headquarters. My stomach rumbles, reminding me that lunch time is fast approaching. I’m always hungry though.

PD makes us stage at the entrance to the neighborhood, not too far from the suspect’s home, but not visible. Except to the dozens of cars entering and leaving. We are hanging out with some fire guys and PD officers. At least the weather is nice.

“We are looking to go in about an hour.”

“Sweet.”

Now I’m really hungry, but we can’t leave. I make an executive decision and find a phone number after a quick Google search.

“Hey, what do you like on your pizza?”

“Black olives and tomatoes.”

“On it.”

The pizza shop guy takes my order, and seems confused when I tell him I am at the entrance to a neighborhood. “I’m one of the two guys in white shirts, by the ambulance. You can’t miss it.”

The pizza was delicious.

And after thirty minutes of strongly-worded warnings from police, a door being kicked in, and swift SWAT action, the call is over.

The perp wasn’t home.

Best five-hour call ever.

 

Rule #1

Unless your life is in imminent danger, never, ever, run on a scene.

Running back to your truck because you need some equipment? You look unprepared, and should have either brought the equipment with you, or take the patient to the ambulance.

Running with the stretcher towards the ambulance? You look like you don’t have the situation under control.

Basically, you look silly.

Sixteen years, and I have never been faced with a situation that made me want to run while on a scene.

Seersucker Season

Old traditions will say that it is inappropriate to wear seersucker before Memorial Day, or Easter, depending on who you ask. Those same people will say the end of seersucker season is Labor Day. Let me assuage your fears; that is old.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Seersucker is appropriate to be worn during the Major League Baseball regular season.

I was wearing my trousers earlier today at the grocery store. I’m pretty sure a middle-aged belle grabbed my butt and said “that’s how you know spring is here.”

Seersucker is where its at.

Maybe it is time for something new

I had a visit from my (former) partner Slimm the other day. He said he had a day off, and he wanted to take the trek up to my neck of the woods. I’ll always take an excuse to see my buddy, and our kids play well together. So the ladies and children went to the playground and did what kids and mothers do at the playground.

Slimm and I sat down in my living room and had a drink, and I told him that I have been thinking that I am done with EMS. “Why?” was his question, followed by “what are you going to do next?”

A good question, without much of an answer.

I’ve given this EMS thing sixteen, almost seventeen years of my life. That’s quite a long time for someone my age, and longer than many people I work with. I certainly have more years in EMS than any coworkers my age. I started in EMS in high school, after all.

It’s been a good ride, but I really think it is over.

Over the next few hours or so, we discussed our futures, specifically mine. Mostly we discussed how I came to this realization that EMS wasn’t for me any more.

“But you’re a good paramedic” is one argument I heard. But it isn’t about being good. It’s more about being happy.

I can’t point to a single occurrence, but more of a sequence of events. Kind of like when you know a relationship with a girl is going nowhere. You try, but she isn’t interested any longer.

When I first started at Local Ambulance, people listened. Management was interested. They were excited to hear my ideas, my personal and professional goals, and we worked together to accomplish some of them.

But lately that’s changed.

Over the past several years, I’ve had many meetings with members of senior management or administration. I’ve brought dozens of ideas to them, from how to improve and establish a critical care program, to courses we could offer for continuing education, to beginning a community paramedic program. Each time I’ve been fed like a puppy on a leash, and then let go. Some of my ideas have been implemented, but have all failed. Maybe it is because I wasn’t a part of the implementation, and maybe not.

Maybe I’m just tired and in a rut. I’ve spent a long time focusing on other, different projects within EMS, and maybe I need to focus on just being a paramedic for a little while.

***

Part of me feels bitter, and I think it is rightfully so. I really don’t know if every service would be the same, but I can’t think that they would be.

Maybe I’ve reached a pinnacle of progression in EMS, and there simply isn’t any more room to go up. Maybe there is more room for growth, but not where I am now.

I like being a paramedic, but at the same time, I don’t like being a paramedic anymore. This is really a strange situation I find myself in.

Slimm thinks I should stick it out some more. He tells me that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

“It is if they fertilize it properly.”

The flickering flame of a paramedic

Lately, I’ve been feeling myself becoming more and more burned (or burnt, whatever) out. And I don’t like it. I love this job. I love taking care of people.

But sometimes I feel as if I have an unrequited love.

When I first started in EMS, everything was new and fresh and exciting. It was easy to get excited about the calls that didn’t need excitation, and very easy to get too excited at times.

Now, after seeing hundreds of people who are simply seeking drugs, I’m cynical. I don’t want to be cynical, and I want to take care of my patients appropriately, but something is happening to me that I don’t understand.

Yesterday, I picked up this middle-aged lady, who I have picked up several times before. Her complaint? Chest pain. Every time. She says she has 14 stents, and has had 7 or 8 heart attacks. “I stopped counting after five,” she says. She then tells you that she has to go to the University Hospital, 30 minutes away, not one of the 7 (seriously, seven) other hospitals that are just as capable as the University one.

It gets better.

She’s allergic to nitroglycerin. And aspirin. And literally almost everything else you can think of. The list is incredibly ridiculous. Then she says she can’t have a heart cath done, because her doctor says if she gets put to sleep, she might die. Never mind that they don’t actually put people to sleep for heart caths, she says she can’t have one. “So what does the hospital do for you, if they can’t really do anything for you?” is the next question that probably every other paramedic would ask. And it is a legitimate question.

“They give me painkillers.”

Well, there you have it. She wants painkillers. The cynical medic in my says “fine, you want me to drive 30 minutes, past 7 hospitals, just so you can get some meds? Then I’m going to sit behind you and not do a damned thing. But I don’t want to be that medic.

Is she really a drug seeker who is simply wasting everyone’s time? Maybe. Is she having a legitimate event, and in actual need of narcotic analgesia? Maybe. If she was really a drug seeker, wouldn’t she want to go to the closer hospital so she can get her drug? Maybe. Does anyone benefit from a cynical, burned-out medic with a bad attitude?

Certainly not.

I started typing this about an hour ago, then took a break to take a walk.

And I don’t take walks.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say here, and how to say it. I don’t know what the problem is, or what went wrong, or when it went wrong, for that matter.

But something is wrong, and I don’t like it.

I miss the old medic I used to be.

Drunk drivers belong in prison

I’ve come up with a way to truly punish drunk drivers. I think it will work.

It goes something like this.

Upon being pulled over and failing the field sobriety tests, drivers are given breathalyzer tests. If they fail the breathalyzer test, they are immediately transported to a hospital, where blood is drawn and sent to two separate labs.

If the lab reports come back and the driver was impaired, straight to jail. Period. No bail. Held until trial.

If found guilty, five years in jail for the first offense.

Do it again, and get found guilty again? Twenty years.

Third conviction? Life. No possibility of parole.

I fail to see why driving drunk isn’t treated the same as attempted manslaughter.

Drunk drivers deserve to be behind bars for a very long time.

I have a story for you if you want to try to convince me otherwise.

“Daddy always comes back”

My son is at the age where he gets very upset when either myself or his mommy leaves. “Mommy always comes back” I tell him, and try to comfort him. “Daddy always comes back” is what I tell him when I am leaving for work. He sees me in my uniform, and knows he probably won’t see me until he wakes up the next day.

My son sort of knows what I do. He knows that I work on an ambulance and help people feel better. He knows what my company’s ambulances look like, and he can point one out a mile away.

He doesn’t know that parts of my job are dangerous, and I don’t know that he should.

My job isn’t nearly as dangerous as a police officer, or a firefighter, but he knows we work together. He knows that we are the good guys.

He also knows that sometimes, good guys don’t come home.